Indie-Pendence Blog Hop Day 4: The Difficulties of Indie Publishing and Marketing

Okay, so technically we still have one day left of the blog hop, but that’s reserved for a weekly feature on this site – a chance for you all to get to meet my writing group. Today I want to break the formula and ramble a bit about my own views on indie publishing and marketing aside from what I talked about yesterday.

First, though, a reminder that we’re still giving away loads of books for free. Let’s review what you stand to win this week:

-eBooks of the Corridors of the Dead (limit 5)
-eBooks of the Kayson Cycle (limit 5)
-eBooks of the Station (limit 5)
-Advance eBook of Room 3 when it releases (limit 2)
-eBooks of the Newfoundland Vampire (limit 3)
-eBooks of Marie Loughin’s Valknut the Binding (limit 5)

That’s 25 free books ready for folks to win. And all you have to do is comment. Once you’ve commented, you’ll go into the drawing spreadsheet. On Friday, I’ll draw your number from the hat (a random number generator), and notify you of what you’ve won. Your odds are really, really good, and I know the involved authors would love your comments on our posts. I’m hoping this will be fun for everybody and spur some discussion.

All right, so. Where do we go with this post? Good question. I had originally envisioned this post as a recap of what the other authors shared this week, but I think those posts stand on their own and there’s no need to rehash and bore all of us. The answer, I think, is to take a look at my own attitudes about indie publishing and marketing, outside of writing. I went with four additional questions to probe some of my own attitudes.

The most difficult part about being an indie publisher

Hands-down, the marketing. Formatting is a chore and can be a slow, frustrating pain (doubly so when you’re working on a print book), but when it’s done, it’s done. Marketing drags on and on and can suck up every moment of your waking life if you allow it to. Not to mention that, as I said yesterday, you can develop this real casino mentality to the whole thing, hoping that the big payoff is just around the corner. All the while it drains your money (creativity) with no real return. Everyone claims to have the answer, but by the time that person shares her answer, that approach has likely dried up entirely, and that’s not mentioning people who have an angle just to make money off of desperate authors.

That brings me to another point: I have some frustration with the indie community right now for not realizing that the marketing thing is something of a rat race and a lot of people are being taken advantage of with no real tangible return for their money. Absolutely it is everyone’s right to make that decision and I would never take that away from them, but I can still be a little sad to see people shelling out multiple thousands of dollars to sell a few hundred books. From a pure business standpoint, it makes little sense, and I say this as a big “art over business” guy.

Print copies

Yes. Let me say that again, yes. Hell, yes, you should create print copies of your book, no matter how much of a pain in the ass it might be. Let me put it to you this way: More than 50% of my sales of Corridors of the Dead were through print alone, carried out the old-fashioned way: connecting person-to-person with readers and sharing my own experiences with them. I find it really helps sell someone on the novel when they can connect the author to the work, and most POD services these days are very, very low-cost. I mean, why not? It’s one more venue for your book if nothing else.

Blog tours…still smart?

I don’t know. I’m not sure they were ever super-effective in the first place. I don’t know anyone who really raised awareness through them, or if they did, it was long before I came on the scene. That would put the sell-by date on blog tours somewhere around the middle of 2011, which is a lifetime ago in terms of the self-publishing industry. As a blog reader, I know that I sometimes skip over blog tour stops (I say this as I host stops on my own, but I am trying to add some value for my regular readers) if it looks like a cookie-cutter pre-written entry. Is that really effective for the touring writer? Maybe if they hit 100+ blogs, but at that point I wonder if that’s the most efficient use of your time as a writer. I’m on the fence, leaning towards them not being a very effective tool at this point.

Marketing Gimmicks

Oh, boy, now here’s where I really get irritated. At the risk of alienating some folks, I’m going to talk a little about gimmicks. You know the ones – tweet about a book, like a book, tag a book, etc. and get a giveaway entry to win a Kindle Fire. Oh and I’m guilty of hosting entries like this, so I know, you don’t need to tell me. I just realized a few weeks ago that I think this cheapens what we do; it gives our writing an air of desperation, that we don’t feel it can really stand on its own. Now giving away copies of your book? That’s kind of the opposite, and I stand by that. That’s a way of saying, yes, I believe in this book enough that I’m willing to give it away sight-unseen to a person that I don’t know. That actually takes some courage, where giving away an Amazon gift card does not. That’s what I think book marketing should be about: the courage to engage the reader and give them value based on your own work. That includes the act of creating new works, the best marketing that I know of.

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All right, one more time. I’m curious what readers think of these giveaways and blog tours. Do they get your attention at all, or do you experience fatigue with them? You can click on the image below to access the other blogs on our hop.

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6 Comments

  1. I like your casino mentality analogy. If you are in this gig to make a quick fortune, you’re better off taking the money you would spend on editors, marketing, covers, etc., and using it to buy lottery tickets instead. The end result will probably be the same, but the lottery tickets are less stressful and time consuming.

    I do think it’s possible to build an audience and start making modest income at some point, maybe even make a good living (eventually), but very few writers have ever qualified for being showcased on “Lives of the Rich and Famous.”

    As for marketing, it seems like blog tours largely market to other writers. And I share your sentiment about gimmicks versus book giveaways.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Jonathan. As fate would have it, I have just become fully indie (quite by surprise a week ago) and can really use these views as I weigh my next steps.

    -Jimmy

  3. I have been a blog stop on a couple of book tours. I was careful in my consideration of participating in either tour, not only because time is at a premium, but because I want to provide my blog audience access to authors that I myself find interesting. As a result, I feel that I have two author friends that I might not have met otherwise, and that makes me smile.

    Had I considered it cheapening the experience to have giveaways? No, but until I read this post, I hadn’t really thought much about that aspect of the blog tours at all. You do make an interesting point, with which I agree: giving away a copy of the book takes a lot more courage than throwing goodies (or, gulp!) money at readers. I believe the books (any book, not just the ones that I hosted) will rise or fall upon their own merits. A tee-shirt might make someone smile, but a book can change their life. I believe in the books, but heck, I like winning stuff too… so… conflicted, yep.

    //Soapbox.GetOnMine();
    I find it much more loathsome when authors plead for tags/likes with apparent disregard for if the tagger/liker has any idea what the book is about. I left one online group because the “TAG ME” shriek was so shrill and constant, it made me feel smarmy by association. I don’t have a problem with writers reminding readers that they can add their book to GoodReads or like it on Amazon if they are interested in it. I think that is of value to other potential readers, because it will be representative of people who are genuinely intrigued by the book’s premise – and not just other authors interested in getting tag-backs for their own book. The primary function of reviews, likes, tags and star ratings is to help readers decide what to read, not to help the author sell books.
    //Soapbox.Off();

    Thought provoking post! Thanks!

    -aniko “writes a book in the comments” carmean

  4. Very nice post. I think it’s a little of both. Blog tours can be effective in introducing a new reader to a new to them author or book, but they can get tiresome.

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

  5. I totally agree with your comments about marketing. I can’t imagine how utterly time-consuming that would be to sell, sell, sell your book. For some, that’s even harder than the writing!

    I have to respectfully disagree about blog tours. In May 2011, I started “putting the word” out about my blog. Until then, it was just for me and I never ever had any dreams that anyone would actually read my blog posts and reviews. It was purely for my enjoyment only, and I wanted a way to keep track of what I was reading. I joined Book Blogs and found a whole online community of bloggers and started visiting other book blogs and discovered this whole other world! Hey, I wasn’t the only one doing it!! As I visited other blogs, I started noticing the book tours and that piqued my interest. I thought it was a great way for authors to get their books into the hands of people who can help get the word out: bloggers! What a fantastic marketing tool!! I love hosting authors on book tours, and I love hosting giveaways of their books. What you said about the Kindle giveaways is totally true. If I’m following a book tour to learn more about an author’s latest book, I really want to win the book and not the Kindle or an Amazon Gift Card. Don’t get me wrong, I’d LOVE to win a Kindle. But the point of a book tour is to bring awareness and excitement about the book…not an alternate prize!

    darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com

  6. I totally agree with the casino mentality (or as I like to call it “The Literary Lotto”). But that goes for just about everyone outside of the indie community too (writing and otherwise). Don’t get me started on all of the people who think that if they’ll be a millionaire if they can just get a book deal.

    As far as marketing goes, you’re right, most of the tricks don’t work. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t gain reviews, interviews, etc. because that gives exposure (not to be confused with sales).

    The best way to sell more books, as far as I’ve seen, is to raise your ranking on Amazon. As you climb up rank wise, your Also Bought page and search yield seems to increase. Thus making it easier for someone to find and buy your work. Of course, this presents a catch-22. In order to gain a higher rank, you need to sell more copies. And in order to sell more copies, you need a higher rank.

    From what I’ve heard though, adding more novels to your catalog can do wonders for your sales. So I suppose it ultimately comes down to maintaining a positive attitude and to keep on writing.

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